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Katayoun Vaziri
Max Protetch Gallery (www.maxprotetch.com)

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Katayoun Vaziri makes works on paper and videos that pose pointed questions about the nature of personal narratives and civic identity: what are the stories we tell ourselves to determine our allegiances, national and otherwise? are there similarities between the way we divide ourselves from those around us and the way that nations draw their boundaries? She experiments with the temporal qualities of each of her chosen media, teasing out the storytelling capacities of each and playing them against each other.

On view in this exhibition will be the video 'Where Are We,' shot in a Lebanese camp for Palestinian refugees, and structured using the text of Mahmoud Darwish's poem 'A Noun Sentence; as well as new multi-panel work on paper.

Born in Iran and currently a resident of New York, Vaziri draws on a wide range of cultural references. Persian miniature, ethnographic videography, Modernist painting, and Rauschenbergian collage are a few of the elements that animate her work, and provide the framework for the larger issues that run through it. This formal diversity allows her to highlight the non-linear connections between the stories she represents, and to draw attention to visual and linguistic similarities between otherwise divergent narratives, which include stories told firsthand by Palestinians in a Lebanese refugee camp (as in 'Where Are We,' on view in the show); footage of the cameramen who filmed Iranian-American protesters outside the UN; and Vaziri's own experiences of immigration and cultural alienation and assimilation.

Often at play is a measure of abstraction, seen most clearly in the multi-panel works on paper: narrative elements will play across multiple panels, only to be disrupted by sections of intense color or repeated symbolic patterns. But the works on paper also suggest that the more traditionally documentarian impulse on view in the videos is not quite what it seems. Vaziri questions the ethnographic mode, and as she does in 'Where Are We,' seeks out those places in which her subjects' stories veer from the political to the personal, and vice versa. She also repeatedly reveals her role as the narrator, contrasting the intimacy she achieves with her subjects with her position as a perennial outsider. And by employing textual sources external to the footage––in 'Where Are We,' for instance, she works with a text by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish––Vaziri expands the context for the narratives she records.

Similarly, the surface and composition of the works on paper, which draw from the traditions of both hard-edged and biomorphic abstraction, are interrupted by lyrical, narrative-based passages based on the artist's own life, political considerations and contradictions, and meditations on the nature of national and personal identity. The eye is drawn to the intersections between contrasting forms of representation, so that looking at these works becomes a metaphor for piecing together our own narratives of overlap between public and private life, of feeling like an insider and an outsider at the same time, of the often disjunctive process by which we inscribe ourselves in the world around us.

Katayoun Vaziri (born Tehran, 1983) received her MFA from Yale University in 2009. This is her first solo exhibition in New York. She will participate in an upcoming project at the Queens Museum in 2010. In 2008 her work was featured in Index Magazine's online 'Video Documentary' section. This year Vaziri is the recipient of a Fiscal Scholarship from the New York Foundation for the Arts, which will support the production of an ongoing experimental documentary video about the Iranian-American diaspora. She lives and works in New York.

Publicity by Esther Nash.
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